LANSING, Mich. — State Senator Curtis Hertel, Jr. (D–Meridian Township) and State Representative Jim Townsend (D–Royal Oak) have introduced a resolution proposing an amendment to the state constitution that would effectively ban the Legislature’s ability to make bills “referendum proof.”
According to the Michigan Constitution, bills that include spending cannot be officially contested by voters. The Republican majority has exploited this loophole in Michigan law by adding appropriations to some of their most controversial legislation — including Right to Work. This practice effectively shields the legislation from a potential ballot challenge.
“It’s plain political cowardice,” Sen. Hertel said. “Republicans have been using appropriations as an insurance policy against the will of the people. Whenever they believe Michiganders will disagree with their legislation, they take away the voters’ power to change it.”
Sen. Hertel suggests that this use of appropriations is dishonest.
“Some bills do require funding for implementation purposes. That’s why we have an annual appropriations process and supplementals throughout the year,” he said. “There’s no reason to attach unnecessary spending to a piece of legislation.”
A recent MIRS investigation revealed that some appropriations are not used to fund the applicable legislation. The Attorney General’s office confirmed the findings, and specified that spending attached to Right to Work and a ban on college athlete unions either went back to the General Fund or was used for a different issue altogether.
“If my Republican colleagues trust the integrity of their own legislation and the will of the voters, they will be happy to close this unfortunate loophole,” Sen. Hertel said.
This constitutional amendment will have to be put on the ballot by the Legislature and then approved by voters.
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